Police were called to an Arizona elementary school after a parent and two other men allegedly confronted a principal over a student being sent home after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Diane Vargo, the principal of Mesquite Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, told USA TODAY that the father entered the school with his son and was aggressive toward school staff over the boy being sent home.
She brought the man into her office, and, approximately 10 minutes later, he was joined by two other men. One of the men was holding black zip ties, and the father and another man were filming the principal on their cell phones.
"[The father] was very upset and demanded that his son stay at school. And I said he can’t. We’re just following protocols. He had a phone in my face. He was telling me that there’s more people coming," Vargo said.
"Those two other men barged into my office and blocked my doorway, and one of the men had these large black zip ties in his hand, and the other man had a phone on me as well," she added.
The elementary school earlier on Thursday contacted the father to confirm that his son and other students were exposed to a person who tested positive for coronavirus.
The group of men then came to the school and threatened to perform a "citizen's arrest" on the principal if the boy was not allowed to return to school.
"I tried to deescalate before all of that, but they were aggressive, and I felt threatened. I felt scared," Vargo said.
The Pima County Health Department has said children must stay at home for seven days after a confirmed exposure to COVID-19. Students are allowed to return to school if they test negative for the virus five days into quarantine and if they have no symptoms for a week.
Vargo asked the men to leave her office during the confrontation, but they refused. She then called the police, but the men left by the time officers arrived.
The Tucson Police Department confirmed to USA TODAY that officers responded to the school “over a fight brewing.” All three of the men were arrested off of school grounds and charged with misdemeanor trespassing. They have all been released.
The principal said the boy witnessed "the threats, the zip ties, the aggressiveness, the phones in my face, the demands."
She said she wants to listen to parents' concerns and that she knows that these are "challenging times" for families.
"We all know that students do better when they're at school. We all know that. But in order for us to remain open, we have to follow these guidelines," she said.
Vargo told USA TODAY that she has received an outpouring of support after the confrontation and that her office is now full of flowers and words of encouragement.
"I have to say the community across the nation, man, has been so supportive, extremely supportive," she said.
The Arizona incident comes as teachers and school officials across the country have faced angry parents calling for fewer pandemic restrictions in schools. One parent in Texas allegedly ripped a face mask off of a teacher during an altercation in Austin last month.
Asha Gilbert contributed reporting.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Men who threatened principal after sending student home charged